With only a few very notable exceptions, Pierce Brosnan has spent his career playing guys in suits—both figuratively and literally. Sometimes he’s an asshole or glad-hander in a cheap suit, though most of the time he’s a rich, unflappable character who could easily jump in and substitute for the real-life Brosnan in one of his luxury wristwear photo shoots.
His latest film, the adult caper flick The Love Punch, in which the actor stars opposite Emma Thompson, dresses him the same, which is to say nattily, but makes use of this persona in contrasting, effective fashion. It’s not at all the first time Brosnan has dabbled in romantic comedy, but it is amongst his broadest, most loose-limbed efforts, which helps elevate The Love Punch from trifle to an at times oddly endearing, diversionary romp that will take viewers’ affections exactly as far as their affinity for its leads carries them.
A gala presentation at last fall’s Toronto Film Festival, The Love Punch centers on a divorced British couple, Richard (Brosnan) and Kate (Thompson), just sending off the second of their two children to college. When Richard’s company suddenly goes belly up, he loses not only his white-collar job but all its attendant stock options and pension assurances, and the couple’s still commingled financial security goes out the window. With Kate in tow, then, an indignant Richard sets off to get things straightened out.
In short order, the duo track down the responsible party, snooty French hedge fund manager Vincent Kruger (Laurent Lafitte), who gleefully cops to a depraved capitalistic indifference. Staggered and disgusted, Kate pitches Richard on scale-settling justice, and a Pink Panther-style plot is quickly hatched when they see the $10 million diamond necklace sported by Vincent’s trophy bride-to-be, Manon (Louise Bourgoin). When Richard and Kate realize they need reinforcements in order to pass as a quartet of Texas guests at the pair’s impending nuptials, they recruit a pair of married friends, Jerry and Penelope (Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie), to help them crash the event and make off with the jewel.
Working-class resentment got a more disciplined and satirical workout in 2005’s Fun With Dick and Jane, starring Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni (and before that its 1977 progenitor). And this is no wild, brilliantly wooly Wedding Crashers, either; The Love Punch unfolds mostly upon familiar laid track. It’s a kind of slapstick-y, fantastical relationship romp for the AARP set, a child-less The Parent Trap (well, they’re there, but the kids are grown and out of the nest) in which it takes a heist to rekindle a romance and make parties realize that maybe the person for whom they were once right and then decidedly wrong may be right all over again.
The film unfolds mostly in the seaside south of France, and writer-director Joel Hopkins and cinematographer Jérôme Almeras craft a lush, inviting backdrop that reflects the warm glow of Brosnan and Thompson’s winning rapport. Hopkins’ script is short on neither banter nor nicely observed bon mots (“It’s easy to say I love you when rolling around on expensive sheets, but so much harder when they need washing,” Kate counsels Manon) that carry the weight of some honest life experience. It has a perfectly droll sense of humor about itself, too, which goes a long way; a moment of strutting badassery, set to the Clash’s “I Fought the Law,” is interrupted by the demands of bladders less trustworthy than they used to be.
If in the end The Love Punch cries out for more deliciously honed foundering or an additional twist or two—something with a bit more wicked topspin than the relatively meager set-’em-up-to-knock-’em-down obstacles the movie serves up in its second and third acts—it doesn’t necessarily blunt the modest charms of this airy offering. After all, retirees still need a genre yarn every now and then, right?
Brent Simon is a regular contributor to Screen Daily, Paste, Playboy and Magill’s Cinema Annual, among many other outlets, as well as a member and former three-term president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.
Director: Joel Hopkins
Writer: Joel Hopkins
Starring: Emma Thompson, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, Louise Bourgoin, Laurent Lafitte
Release Date: May 23, 2014